WeChat has an absolute stranglehold on smartphones in China. But now many people are betting that there is room for other social apps.

Bytedance, the maker of the popular short video app TikTok and China’s most popular news app Toutiao, is now developing a new messaging app named Flipchat, according to Chinese media reports.

We have yet to receive a comment from Bytedance about the app, and there isn’t any detail about it from the Chinese reports.

But the timing of it sure makes sense. Bytedance has irked rivals with its network of addictive content apps, and has been expanding to other territories like ecommerce. And some see a weakness to WeChat: With over 1 billion users, most of them in a country with 1.4 billion people, there isn’t all that much room for Tencent’s app to grow. And with everyone on it, WeChat isn’t cool anymore -- some teenagers think it’s “for old people”.

Yinyu, for example, has been one of the most popular apps among young people lately. Literally meaning “voice encounter”, the app matches users for a karaoke contest -- challenging users in a “chat” room (singing room?) to compete to sing the next verse displayed by the app. Launched in September, the app has been among the top five of the social networking category on China’s iOS app store, and is currently ranking the 12th of all free apps.

A singing room pits 6 people against each other, and whoever finishes the most verses wins. (Picture: Yinyu)

Similar ideas -- socializing by speaking, not texting -- have been picking up. Some of the voice-based social networking apps have been so popular that app makers have teams dedicated to listening in for dirty chats -- in public chat rooms or private messages reported by users.

Teenagers are also flocking to social apps that have their own niche. Soul, launched in July, pairs you with random people from all over the country by “soul matching” -- based on a series of personality tests you need to take when starting to use the app. Soul has also been topping the social networking category on China’s iOS app store, and once cracked Weibo’s hot search terms in September… but that was when users complained about not being able to log in.

Users with similar personalities -- based on the app’s tests -- belong to a same virtual “Planet”. (Picture: Soul)

These apps have gained their own audience, but none has attracted as much attention as the high-profile Bullet Messaging. Backed by the big-talking smartphone maker Smartisan and boasting a new voice messaging experience, Bullet Messaging reportedly attracted 5 million users two weeks after its launch. Some even thought of it as a serious WeChat challenger… until it cooled down the next month.

Nobody talks much about it anymore, which may be a cautionary tale for ByteDance.